The Story behind Greenland’s Record Ice Loss
From: Climate Central
The news that an unusually widespread melt occurred in Greenland during mid-July, when 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet—including normally frigid high-elevation areas—experienced some degree of melting, has made international headlines, and for good reason. Such a widespread melt event has not occurred there since at least 1889, and may be yet another sign of the consequences of man made climate change.
The widespread melt so far this season, while dramatic and worrisome to many climate scientists, does not necessarily mean that Greenland is headed for a far faster and more significant melt than scientists already anticipate. The current projections for sea level rise related to the melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is scary enough, with the likelihood that it will raise global sea levels by about 2 to 6 feet by 2100.
Greenland is the world’s largest island, and it holds 680,000 cubic miles of ice. If all of this ice were to melt—and that won’t happen anytime soon—the oceans would rise by more than 20 feet.
NASA detected the melt event using observations from three different satellites, and the satellite record extends back by about three decades. The satellites have never caught anything like this, not even for a very short time period.
Greenland’s ice has been melting faster than many scientists expected just a decade ago, spurred by warming sea and land temperatures, changing weather patterns and other factors. Recent findings that were first reported by Climate Central, showed that the reflectivity of the Greenland ice sheet, particularly the high elevations that were involved in the mid-July melt event, have declined to record lows.
“I think it is clear that entire ice sheet melt events are now increasing in frequency as a result of anthropogenic [manmade] climate change, rather than natural variability in solar insolation,” said William Colgan of the University of Colorado.